Ray-Ban Stories: Facebook’s camera glasses are the real start of smart glasses

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Riding an electric skateboard at 25 mph is exhilarating. Sharing that first-person experience can be as simple as reaching up and clicking a button on the edge of Ray-Ban’s new Stories glass.

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Ray-Ban Stories are sunglasses with cameras, speakers and microphones neatly hidden around the frame. The two cameras on the front of the frame can either take pictures or record 30-second videos. The stem-mounted speakers let you take calls and listen to audio. Combined technology makes the Total Package an easy-to-use tool that allows you to be in the moment, run down a hill, and capture it.

While Stories is a Ray-Ban branded product, it partnered with Facebook for the software side of things. Connect the glasses to the Facebook View app and log in using your Facebook account to sync photos and adjust settings.

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The stories may sound a bit futuristic, but Amazon already has Echo Frames with speakers and Alexa voice assistant. Bose has audio frames. Gaming company Razer also has Bluetooth smart glasses. Ray-Ban stories may be the catalyst for the smart glasses category of products, but it is not a new concept.

The fact is that Snap Inc. Smart glasses started from the spectrum of K. The second version of its product in 2018 was almost perfect – for a sunglasses product that takes photos and videos. The problem is that the device and the company went to market a little early a few years ago. Now, the Ray-Ban Stories, with their iconic Wayfarer design, feel like they may be very close to mainstream adoption.

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As the trend for this product category grows, curious people will want to know how Ray-Ban stories work in practice—are they useful? And, what are the privacy implications for both the wearer and the unsuspecting subjects?

tl; Dr

Pros:

  • Solid image quality for videos and stills
  • Traditional, Fashionable, Wanderer Design

Shortcoming:

  • Touch (media) controls are easy to activate accidentally
  • No auto-off power functionality

buy on ray ben.

Ray-Ban Stories Look and Design

It may sound obvious, but Ray-Ban Stories is primarily an outdoor product. (Although you can order them with a prescription or blue light filtering lens for indoor/computer use.) However, most of the Stories models are essentially sunglasses. In that vein, the Stories really do look like a standard pair of Ray-Ban sunglasses. This is great but also important. It doesn’t feel silly to wear them.

I tried the Wayfarer model in a glossy black frame with a green lens. They feel like sunglasses and look like sunglasses. Next to each lens are two view cameras, one on the left and one on the right. The cameras are showing up on a glossy black frame, but they’re blended in, so they’re not immediately apparent. The stems are ever slightly thicker than traditional Wayfarer sunglasses, but just barely. The speaker is practically invisible on each stem. There’s a physical button at the top of the right stem, but that blends in, too.

Inside the frame, there is a power button on one side and a pinhole-shaped LED light on the other. The light serves as a notification indicator for the wearer. I like to have a dedicated power switch. The glasses have no way of turning them off automatically after a period of inactivity—only a physical switch.

smart glasses setup

The Ray-Ban Stories hardshell comes in a charging case. They also come with a soft sleeve holder. You can recharge the glasses by keeping them in the case. The case charges using a USB-C cable.

The Facebook View app is required to use Stories. And a Facebook account is required to use the View app. Even though the apps won’t automatically send photos or videos from the glasses to Facebook, an account is required to use the product.

From the box to using Stories, it took me about 20 minutes. From downloading the View app to pairing and updating the firmware, it was easy enough but took more than a few minutes.

It’s easy to control (press and hold the top button) to take your first picture. Taking a video is even easier because it’s just one press—no hold. Videos will record for 30 seconds unless you press the button to pause them before that time. You can combine multiple 30-second videos together to make one longer video montage.

camera glasses privacy

Using the Snap Spectacles since 2017 has me drawn to conversations about sunglasses, cameras, and privacy. Ray-Ban and Facebook are trying to be preemptive around privacy in some ways. First, when you activate the camera (photo or video), a white LED next to the camera sensor is visible to people around you. There is also a sound indicator for each interaction. A digital shutter is the sound that occurs while capturing a moment. You can change the volume of these sounds in Settings, but you can’t turn off the sounds.

In accordance with the product’s Terms of Service, you are not allowed or supposed to Tape the exterior light indicator. Are these items enough to keep the creepy factor down? You have to decide.

I think the decision will come down to where you plan to reconcile the memories as to whether you will feel scary or not. It is always possible to try to take a picture of someone in public. The difference here is that people might not expect your sunglasses to capture the moment. My guess is that now that Facebook has entered the conversation, it won’t take long until a lot of people are aware that this sort of thing could be possible.

future of smart glasses

Are smart sunglasses an inevitable future of technology devices? I think augmented reality glasses are the future of wearable technology. But, until we get more affordable transparent displays, cameras and speakers packed into glasses will have to do. The present still has a lot of benefits until we reach the future. Having a camera in your glasses means it’s always ready, and you can have free hands. Plus, the speaker on the stem means that the ears are free and there is no fatigue from wearing the earbuds all day.

In terms of specs, the Ray-Ban Stories features a dual 5-megapixel camera system and shoots 2592 by 1944 resolution images. The video it takes is 1184 by 1184 at 30 frames per second. The frames can store up to 500 photos or 30 videos of 30 seconds duration—or a combination of the two formats.

The Stories get about six hours of battery life with moderate usage. It involves listening to a little audio, making some calls, and doing some photography. The hardshell charging case that comes with the glass can recharge the case up to three times before charging them. It takes 70 minutes for the glass in the case to be fully charged.

I wish the glasses could detect if they were bent and held upside down to go into standby mode or power off. In my experience, standby time lasts for most of the day. If the sunglasses battery dies, it still works to block out the sun.

Stories are not a purpose, but photography/videography are the primary focus. The videos and photos captured by it are of good quality overall, especially considering the small sensor size. If you are listening to audio and tap the record button, the audio will stop in order not to record the audio coming from the speaker.

Recording videos while riding an electric skateboard can be an overwhelming use of stories, but so is a lot of everyday conversation. No need to reach for your phone to record your kid in little league games. You don’t even need to have your phone with you to record video. You’ll only need it later to transfer the moments you’ve captured.

The other big component of this product is audio. Audio quality sounds well rounded at low, modest volumes, including some bass frequencies. Once the volume rises more than 50 percent, sound fidelity completely goes out the window. Still, the speakers sound better than I’d expect when listening to audiobooks, podcasts, or casual music.

Be aware; There’s a lot of sound leakage, so if you turn the volume up to 40 percent, you can expect those around you to taste what you’re hearing. It will depend on where you are listening, whether outside or inside, and how close other people are to whether or not you will disturb the people around you.

For comparison, Amazon’s Echo Frames don’t have a camera, primarily for audio-voice assisted listening purposes, and cost around $250. This makes these pair of genuine Ray-Ban glasses for $300 a reasonably priced feel.

The audio touch controls are sensitive on the right side of the frame. Maybe too sensitive for my liking. I would accidentally touch them and start or stop the audio all the time. I wish the image capture button was on the top left of the audio controls to reduce accidental touches.

facebook view app

The companion app, called Facebook View, is Barebones. It’s minimal, and its primary function is to transfer content from the glasses to your phone. The app has some configuration settings, but mostly it’s about the content.

This is an example of a Motion Photo effect that can be added to the Facebook View app.
Tyler Hayes

I really appreciate the simple editing tools the app provides. You can adjust certain items like saturation and contrast. Plus, you can trim videos and crop photos. The best part is the ability to combine multiple images and videos together. The effects are intelligent and turn a mediocre four minutes of footage into a 30-second recap. Some of the photo effects available that move still images seem unnecessary, but they’re still fun and well-done.

Should You Buy Ray-Ban Stories?

At this point in time, I think the Ray-Ban Stories are the best smart glasses available. Bose’s Sport Frames are better for listening while working out, and I wish the Stories were waterproof, but overall it’s a useful, solid product.

I think we’ve reached the point that camera specs no longer require novelty. There are so many compelling uses for capturing memories with your family or during casual games. Of course, this would be absolutely crucial for Ray-Ban and…


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